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When Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Greg Slater pulled into Windon Distilling in St. Michaels one recent afternoon, he wasn’t thinking about the spirits normally distilled inside.

Instead, Secretary Slater had safety on his mind.

The secretary traveled to Talbot County on this chilly spring day to pick up a batch of hand sanitizer procured from Windon Distilling – a unique partnership formed to help protect MDOT employees and the public from COVID-19. MDOT purchased more than 3,500 gallons of sanitizer from the distillery to be used across its transportation facilities.

“It’s a critical element of the defense that we put up to keep our employees safe and the people that we serve safe in a nice, clean environment,” Secretary Slater said.

Typically, Windon Distilling produces a variety of spirits. After the outbreak of COVID-19, however, local jurisdictions began contacting the distillery with requests to make sanitizer.

Hand sanitizer is about 80 percent alcohol and has been in short supply across the country, Maryland included.

Since those first requests, Windon Distilling has produced hand sanitizer for local governments, businesses, individuals and MDOT.

“For me personally, there is no greater feeling than being able to step up and fill a need,” said Jaime Windon, CEO and founder of Windon Distilling. “The fact that we can come in here every single day … and focus on making something that is in incredibly short supply right now and is needed in our community is what keeps us going.”

Windon, who serves as president of the Maryland Distillers Guild, said distillers across the state have partnered with local jurisdictions to provide the much-needed sanitizer.

“At all times the Distillers Guild tries to work together to collaborate and to solve problems and to meet customers’ needs,” Windon said. “And so, in this time, we found it’s even more important that we rallied all of our distillers, found out who was capable of production and who could meet the needs of the overwhelming number of requests for sanitizer that have come in …”

R.B. Wolfensberger, lead distiller and cofounder of Gray Wolf Craft Distilling in St. Michael’s, urged community members to use whatever skills they possess to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. When the State of Emergency went into effect in March, Wolfensberger was working on a whiskey; two weeks later, he was making hand sanitizer.

“This is important to me because it’s a way to contribute back to the community,” Wolfensberger said.

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